Gifting Outside the Wine Bottle

girl in blue sweater holding blue gift wrapped package with gold ribbon

Everyone always appreciates it if you show up to their holiday soirée with a bottle of nice wine, but sometimes thinking outside the wine bottle can provide an extra thrill. Don’t get us wrong though; we would never discourage anyone from heading out to a get-together with a bottle (preferably local) in hand. But if you want your host’s holiday wine cup to overfloweth with joy, we have some local wine, cider, and spirits-adjacent ideas for you.

Light Up a Homebody’s Life

Albany’s Nine Pin Cider produces hard craft ciders from New York apples and fruit, sourced from family-run orchards in the Capital District and Hudson Valley. Their ciders, noted for their off-dry character, have garnered a cult following. While Nine Pin produces classic iterations like Signature and Belgian, they also create unexpected, offbeat concoctions like Blueberry, Peach Tea, and the 110-calorie Cucumber Lime. Also on tap, four deliciously scented candles: Signature, Ginger, Hunny Pear, and Earl Grey. They smell divine and retail for $15. If you really want to think outside of the bottle, go for the dog bandana ($9), apple-green sunglasses ($7), or the fleece beanie hat ($20).

Photo: Nine Pin Cider

Tools for a Curious Epicurean

Harvest Spirits has billed itself as the place where Hudson Valley’s apples get to become immortal. The distillery preserves the fragrant essence of apples in their line of vodkas, applejacks, and brandies; about 600,000 pounds of local Hudson Valley fruit goes to spirit heaven via their 150-gallon still every year. Harvest has also become known for their unexpectedly gourmet line of farm vinegars. A bottle retails for $19, and there’s sure to be a favorite for everyone on your list—Balsamic Apple, Maple (great in a rye-based cocktail), Good Ol’ Apple, Fire Apple, Black Raspberry and Peach—all of which have a place in dressings, sauces, and yes, holiday drinks.

five bottles of vinegar in a v-shape formation
Photo: Harvest Spirits

Something for the Morning After

A post-party pancake breakfast is often in order after a decadent Friendsgiving or Potluck. It extends the festivities and helps correct any lingering symptoms if a heavy-handed bartender happened to be pouring the night before. Taconic Distillery, noted for its fine craft spirits—Bourbon Whiskey, Maple Bourbon, and Rye—also produces a line of flavorful maple syrups. In addition to being a naturally organic addition to any breakfast table, maple syrup is high in antioxidants and lower in calories than many other sweeteners, ounce for ounce. Taconic Distillery’s flavorful Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup has traces of their Dutchess Private Reserve Bourbon; the Organic is a smooth and slightly darker syrup. Both retail for about $20.

two bottles of Taconic Distillery maple syrup on a wood table
Photo: Taconic Distillery

Still want to gift a bottle? Not to worry. Here are some unexpected options.

Ancient Ferment for Adventurous Drinkers

Most people have heard of mead—it is widely believed to be the world’s oldest alcoholic drink—and those who’ve actually tried the fermented honey spirit, generally love it. But mead is still surprisingly under the radar, even among noted beverage enthusiasts. Do your part to contribute to the elevation of our nation’s home-bars by introducing your host to one of Helderberg Meadworks’ cult meads. Heritage is a good one to start with. It’s 100% New York honey, naturally fermented, with the benefit of oak aging. It is often compared to port or sherry in terms of character and texture; tell your host to serve it over ice a la bourbon.

Photo: Helderberg Meadworks

Hit the Sweet Spot

Demarest Hill Winery has more than 40 varieties of wines, ports, and ciders—all good gift options. But a favorite offbeat option is their Chocolate Grappa. Grappa is an un-aged brandy made from the fermented skins, stems, and seeds left behind from the winemaking process. Straight up, Grappa is sharp and bears the characteristics of the grape scraps it’s built on; but chocolate adds a touch of richness and a lush, smooth character. Chilled in the freezer, it can be doled out by the glass as a special after-dinner treat. Like coffee ice cream, Chocolate Grappa is not for everyone, but people who love it are devoted. Gift this to hosts who have a bittersweet palate (i.e., they like their chocolate dark and guzzle IPAs).

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